Martti Aromaa has served nearly 22 years as the CEO of Reka Rubber – a Finnish producer of rubber products, especially for the heavy industry sector. As Martti is retiring from his position, it is a perfect occasion to sit down and wrap up his experience in Poland!
Tuomas Asunmaa: It was more or less 20 years ago when you decided to expand to Poland?
Martti Aromaa: It was the end of the 1990s when we started to look for manufacturing opportunities from ”low cost countries”, like Poland was at the time. We were searching for subcontractors and in 2002-2003 we checked over 20 companies from Sanok to Gdansk, and we came to Poznan as well. There was an opportunity to buy one company, but it turned out that they had lots of outstanding taxes, so we decided against it. However, at the same time our owner discovered that there was an empty hall in Dopiewo (near to Poznan) and here we are. It was not our original plan to locate in Poznan, but fate threw us here in 2003. In 2004, Reka Rubber Polska was established.
And then you moved production here from Finland?
First we moved injection mold production from Aura to Poland, cases where clients had told us that they would pay Finnish prices. Then we also moved handcraft work of radiator hoses, and by 2007 all operations from the Rauma factory were transferred to Poland. It was a tough exercise, as here in Poland we had zero experience in that kind of work initially. That was the hardest time during my 20 years at Reka, I would not do that again with that speed we had.
Did you have a Finnish factory manager in the beginning?
Yes, we had a Finnish guy in the beginning, then Polish, then two more Finns and after that three Polish factory managers. That means we have wide experience of both management styles.
And currently there are around 200 employees in the factory?
Around 250. When the war started, we had around 50 Ukrainian workers too, but some of them went back to their country. Now we have some workers from Belarus too.
At the moment, the lack of labor is probably the biggest challenge?
Until 2017, the labor market was not a problem as it was relatively easy to find people. But then the rotation started, mainly because our work is physically hard. We followed salary levels closely and paid fair money, but it is hard, dirty and hot work at our factory.
Has anything particularly surprised you in Poland?
Poles are really hard working, when they do something, they do it well. Of course, I would still appreciate more proactivity in solving problems. Poland has developed so much, it is not the same country as in 2004. Although the driving culture is still wilder than in Finland, it seems the cars are better here today.
Do you have gray hair from your time in Poland?
Taxation issues, sometimes I find it more complicated here and the list of possible penalties is long. So far, everything is going fine and we never had any problems with the authorities here.
What would you say to anyone who is thinking about building a factory in Poland?
I think one of the biggest questions is whether to have Finnish or Polish factory manager. I still do not have a perfect answer – a combination would be the best, although we are very happy with the current one! I tried to bring some elements from the Finnish mindset, but I have learned that I cannot change everything. For example, at the time of bird flu, I tried to implement an idea that we do not greet each other with a handshake, but the management looked at me with eyes wide open and the finance manager finally commented: ”Martti, are you trying to change basic cultural behavior in Poland? I do not think this will work.” You have to respect that honesty! So, do not think you can change everything!
What will you miss from Poland?
Polish beer is good, better than Finnish!
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If you're thinking about growing your business in Poland, we'd love to hear from you! Reach out to the Spondeo team, and we'll be more than happy to assist you. Our expertise lies in market research, recruitment, finding the perfect business partners, organizing kick-off projects, and providing a range of other services to help you get your business up and running in Poland.